Given the opposite directions of their seasons, the Royals could be considered fortunate to take a game from the Yankees this weekend.
But with an opportunity to capture a three-game series for the first time in six attempts this season by winning the final contest, the Royals failed miserably in a 10-1 loss Sunday before 24,121 at Kauffman Stadium.
New York swatted four home runs, two by Tyler Austin off starter Eric Skoglund, giving the Yankees nine over the past two days.
They padded their major-league best record to 30-13, while the Royals, slugging it out with the Chicago White Sox for baseball’s worst mark, fell to 14-32.
Skoglund had spun three scoreless innings, and nearly watched his teammates turn a triple play, until a couple of mistakes — pitches that caught too much of the middle of the plate — turned the game.
“I was pitching well, keeping them off balance a little bit,” Skoglund said. “They changed their approach a little bit in the fourth inning.”
The Yankees switched things up by starting to swing at first pitches. After Aaron Hicks opened the fourth with a walk, Austin crushed a first-pitch home run to left, 440 feet to the stairs next to the Royals Hall of Fame. Two pitches later the Yankees had another run on Miguel Andujar’s triple and Austin Romine’s broken-bat single.
Another Austin two-run bomb in the fifth opened a 6-0 lead before the Royals had a base hit.
“They executed when I didn’t,” Skoglund said.
Not that the Royals provided much support. They finished with four hits, two by Hunter Dozier, who scored on Jon Jay’s single in the eighth.
But the Royals nearly provided a season highlight, three outs with one pitch, in the second inning.
Austin was hit by a pitch to opening the inning and Andujar singled. Up stepped Romine, who slapped a hard grounder to third baseman Mike Moustakas.
“I knew what I was going to do if the ball was hit to me,” Moustakas said. “Go step on third, throw to second and see what happens. But I was just in enough where it took me an extra step to get there.”
Moustakas threw a strike to Whit Merrifield covering second.
“I didn’t turn it quite quick enough,” Merrifield said. “(Romine) needed to be step slower or I needed to be a step quicker. I thought I turned it good, and made a good throw.”
Romine got to the bag before Merrifield’s throw but it was close. Moustakas, Merrifield, Skoglund and Dozier all said they hadn’t been part of a defense that turned a triple play.
The last one by the Royals occurred in 2006, against the Rays at Kauffman Stadium. That started with a fly out to center fielder David DeJesus. The Royals completed the process with an appeal play at third base.
Their last around-the-horn triple play at home was started by Gary Gaetti in 1995.
Skoglund got out of second unscathed but the Yankees started piling on in the fourth and fifth.
“First three innings, I thought he was really, really good,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He was pitching aggressively in. Then he just kind of lost command.”
Skoglund has mixed effective outings, like 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball against the Rays in his previous start, with games like Sunday.
After the third, Yost wanted to allow Skoglund to work out of difficulty.
“If he’s not totally overwhelmed, try to allow him to pitch through some trouble,” Yost said. “These are all learning opportunities. Adversity is good, games like this are good, if (he) reflects on it … I see bright spots in game like today, and I see where the lights go out. But they’re all good experiences.”